The Off-Ice Hockey Training Pyramid
The Off-Ice Training Pyramid
Whether you are a skater or a goalie, there is a hierarchy of off-ice training that you need to follow to maximize your gains while minimizing your risk of injury. Basically we are trying to build a pyramid of performance with a very broad base and fine peak. Let me explain.
The Off-Ice Training Base: Mobility and Stability
At the broadest point of the pyramid, the bottom, is your mobility and stability. The two go hand in hand because they are related to one another. You see, flexibility is just the range of motion about a joint. So if you just lay there and someone bent your knee as far as it could go (without snapping of course), that would be the flexibility about that joint.
Mobility on the other hand is how much of that flexibility you can actually use in a functional way. For example, we routinely have athletes enter our training programs at Revolution Conditioning who have full range of motion at their knees, hips and ankles (so adequate flexibility), yet they cannot do a perfect squat.
The squat is a measure of their mobility. So we know that the inability to execute this movement is not due to their flexibility, so it could be due to lack of strength (not usually the case with athletes), lack of stability through those movements or it could be a loss of that motor pattern.
Sounds odd doesn’t it, that a motor pattern could be lost – that an athlete’s body could literally have forgotten how to squat, but it happens more often than you think.
Luckily we have ways to re-train that pattern or build the stability in the hips and torso that are required to bring back a nice clean movement.
The Next Level: Functional Strength
At first I was just going to call this segment ‘strength’, but what we are really after is functional strength or useable strength. Doing leg press will make you strong won’t it? But it will not teach you to stabilize that strength, therefore it is not useable strength or functional strength which is what we are after.
Another reason we must be careful to build functional strength and not just big dumb muscles is that as a hockey player you need to carry all your muscle mass. During this phase of training it is not odd to add 6lbs of muscle to a player (or add 12-16lbs over the course of a 4-month training cycle), if that muscle is not useable in a way that makes the player faster, more stable, gives them a harder shot, then it is wasteful. I don’t think we could find a player who would strap an extra 5lbs dumbbell to themselves for a game.
The Pinnacle of the Pyramid: Power
Our final goal is always power. More explosive starts, faster change of direction, harder hitting, better shot, quicker recoveries.
So our final task is taking that strength that we just built and teaching the body to apply that force as quickly as possible. Like the smaller boxer with lightning fast hands who knocks out the bigger fighter with one quick punch; it is the sum of his force and speed that makes the lethal combination.
This is also why you see some players who are extremely muscular, they talk about how hard they worked in the gym, you can see that they bulked up, yet they almost seem to be worse on the ice.
They failed to make this conversion to power. A transport truck has a huge engine, but terrible acceleration – no power. You want to be the Ferrari – quick, agile, responsive.
Climb The Pyramid With Your Off-Ice Training
Here is a very simplified version of how you need to map out your off-season training this year…
Mobility and Stability: 4-week phase. 3 sets of 12 reps
Functional Strength: 3-4 week phase. 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps for major muscle exercises, 8-reps for stabilization training.
Max Strength: 3-4 week phase. 3-4 sets of 2-4 reps for major muscle exercises, 8-reps for stabilization training.
Peak Power: 4-week phase. 3-4 sets of 2-4 reps for explosive exercises (lighten the load a little), 8-reps for stabilization training.
Again, this is very simplified since there is overlap between all phases and some exercises require different rep ranges depending on the athlete, but this gives you the very basic outline.
Here it is in video format if you don’t like reading 🙂